Discovering Fiordland from Te Anau

Most visitors to New Zealand include a trip to Fiordland (to see Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound or to do one of the fabulous walks in the region) while they are in the South Island. Unfortunately many travel agents arrange for their clients to do this as a day trip from Queenstown. We always recommend that our clients stay in Te Anau or Manapouri if they are visiting Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound or wanting to experience Fiordland. This cuts down on the long driving time from Queenstown and gives them the added bonus of experiencing the warm Southern welcome given by local hosts in this area. If you are looking to go on a guided walk in the region, there are also several fabulous options departing from Te Anau.

There are also lots of other great things to do and see in the Te Anau area if you have time. Take a cruise across the pristine waters of Lake Te Anau, surrounded by the untouched beauty of the Fiordland National Park. There are primeval forests, picturesque islands, hidden coves and stunning mountain views waiting to be discovered.

Real Journeys offer tours of the glowworm caves, which begin with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau on a scenic cruise vessel. Deep inside the caves, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms.

Southern Lakes Helicopters are based in Te Anau and offer stunning scenic flights in the region. Departing from the lakefront helipad, you fly over Lake Te Anau for a birds-eye view of glacial carved fiords and bush clad mountain tops. Just above the north end of Lake Te Anau you will make your first landing at a remote glacier. Once airborne again you will fly over the Milford Track before landing at stunning Lake Erskine with its pristine blue waters.

For visitors interested in scuba diving, there is also the option to dive in the Milford Sound / Piopiotahi marine reserve. Milford Sound is unique for diving as the fresh water layer on top of the salt water makes plant and animal life usually found very deep in the sea much closer to the surface here. Because of this, divers are able to find stunning and unusual wildlife only a few meters down, and spend more time exploring. Diving trips are available for experienced divers and also for first time divers.

If you would like any help planning activities in the area, please let us know!

Escaping the European Winter

It is this time of year that I find living in Europe hard! The long cold winter stretches out before us for a few more months. The warm glow and cheery chatter of the Christmas markets are gone. The Christmas Tree has been thrown out, and the decorations packed away for another year. An icy wind blows across the fields and through the streets, cutting to the bone. Snow turns to slush, and people hurry from their houses to their cars, in a rush to turn up the heater before they freeze.

Meanwhile in New Zealand it is high summer. My friends and family send emails and photos of themselves at the beach – the kids playing cricket and rugby on the sand, or practicing life surfing and body boarding through the waves, while their parents wander along the beach, or grill sausages on the BBQ and enjoy the sunshine. It is the perfect time to do one of New Zealand’s Great Walks or one of the hundreds of other trails traversing the country, connecting isolated beaches, rugged coastal cliffs, farmland, river valleys and virgin forest, or high country tussock lands and dramatic mountain ranges. The weather is normally settled at this time of year, and it is the perfect temperature for walking or biking or kayaking, or one of the many outdoor activities on option in New Zealand. It is also the perfect time of year to visit one of the many wineries, and linger for a long lunch under the vines, while sampling the local pinot noir or sauvignon blanc.

In my opinion, February and March are the best months to visit New Zealand (and the best time to flee the long winters in Europe). Most of the “high season” tourists using their Christmas holidays to travel have left the country, and the local schools are back in session (so kiwi kids and their families are back home) and everything is much emptier. There are more accommodation options available to choose from, and the prices are usually better than during the Christmas period. The water is also warmer, as it has absorbed the strength of the sun’s rays during the summer months. There is also better availability for airfares (and more competitive rates).

It’s not so easy to travel during this time if you have children at school in Germany, but for anyone else, this time of year is highly recommended for your holiday in New Zealand! If I could, I would flee the European winter every year in February or March, for a taste of warmth and paradise on the other side of the world!!

 

It’s all happening in Auckland

If you are visiting Auckland in the next few months, there are some exciting events coming up. Here’s a run-down:

17-22 November 2016: Royal New Zealand Navy celebrates its 75th Anniversary

In 2016, the Royal New Zealand Navy celebrates its 75th Anniversary. There will be an International Naval Review as part of these celebrations in Auckland from the 17th to 22nd of November. A number of foreign navies, including the US Navy, are participating. The ships will enter the Waitemata Harbour in formation on Thursday 17 November. There will also be a march by 1000 sailors down Queen Street, public open days on New Zealand and international naval vessels, and an exhibition at The Cloud on Queens Wharf.  For more details see the Navy’s website here:http://nznavy75.co.nz

14-21 December 2016: Youth Sailing World Championships

From the 14th to 21st of December, Auckland will host the 2016 Youth Sailing World Championships. This is expected to attract about 400 young sailors to New Zealand. Torbay Sailing Club (on the North Shore) is hosting the tournament, in conjunction with World Sailing and Yachting New Zealand.

2 – 14 January 2017: ASB Tennis Classic

The ASB Classic takes place from the 2nd to the 14th of January 2017. In a major coup for Auckland’s annual international tennis tournament, Serena Williams will be playing. Other internationals confirmed for the 2017 tournament include Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Jack Sock, John Isner, Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer. The Auckland tournament continues to be a hit with top international players, winning the players’ choice WTA Best Asia-Pacific International Tournament 2 years in a row. To buy tickets, see the ASB Classic Tennis website: http://www.asbclassic.co.nz

28-30 January 2017: Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival

The Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival takes place in the Viaduct Events Centre and Viaduct Basin over Auckland Anniversary Weekend (28 – 30 January 2017). Enjoy three days of traditional and contemporary Maori culture, from emerging and established Māori musicians including Sammy J, Maisey Rika and Ria Hall, as well as traditional and modern kapa haka performances. Wander the village marketplace and discover delicious kai from Māori chefs and a variety of authentic arts and crafts. Experience traditional Māori games, storytelling, and workshops, plus exciting waka experiences on the Waitematā. There will also be a ‘Koro Lounge’ where pakeke (older visitors) can sit down, relax and have a complimentary cup of tea or coffee. Here is a link to the full programme: Tamaki Herenga Programme

9-12 February 2017: Auckland Lantern Festival

The Auckland Lantern Festival takes place between the 9th and 12th of February, and is Auckland’s largest cultural festival. Hundreds of handmade Chinese lanterns are set amongst the heritage trees and gardens of the Auckland Domain, while food stalls showcase delicious, authentic Chinese cuisine. There are performances, martial arts displays, arts and craft stalls, and a fireworks show at the end of the Festival.

 

 

 

James Cameron in New Zealand

Tourism New Zealand has a newly launched campaign which features filmmaker James Cameron (the famous director of Aliens, The Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, among other films). Cameron and his wife Suzy picked New Zealand as their second home 4 years ago.  James Cameron comments: “If you enjoy the outdoors and you enjoy a sense of adventure, you’re not going to be able to beat this place anywhere in the world.”

The campaign features a clip entitled “James Cameron’s New Zealand”, and a range of short films on the following themes: People and Culture; Local Wine; Journeys and Landscapes; Walking and Hiking; Cities and Arts, and Alpine Vistas.

You can see the campaign here: http://www.newzealand.com/int/feature/james-cameron-new-zealand/

New Zealand in the winter

I have been living in Germany now for nearly 13 years.  And until last summer, we have managed to avoid going home to New Zealand in the winter.  But now that two of my children are in school, it has become a lot harder to take advantage of the New Zealand summer.  Travelling at Christmas time is more expensive than travelling at other times of the year, and yet the other school holidays (Easter and Autumn) are only two weeks.  By the time you fly over to New Zealand (and we always like to have a stopover in Asia on the way!) and adjust to the time change, it’s nice to have more than a week or so before you have to fly back!

So last year we decided to “bite the bullet” and fly home during our German summer holidays – winter in New Zealand. My husband was very dubious.  He pictured us giving up the hot German summer (which is actually not that reliable anyway!) and sitting in New Zealand, getting cold and wet and being miserable.  And yet on the up-side, the children had 6 weeks holiday from July to August, the flights were a lot cheaper than flying at other times of the year, and it would mean we could have more time in New Zealand with family and friends, instead of having to rush back for school after only ten days holiday.

When we arrived in Auckland at the beginning of July, it was actually only 2 degrees cooler than it had been when we left Germany. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and all seemed right with the world.  We were in New Zealand for approximately 5 weeks, and during this time we had an amazing amount of blue sky and sunshine.  As far as I can recall, we only had two or three damp mornings, and the waterproof trousers and gumboots that I had taken with us for the kids didn’t end up being used at all.  We spent a lot of time on the beach (and the kids went swimming in the sea several times, although I have to admit it was too cold for me to contemplate taking my clothes off!) and as a family, found numerous fun things to see and do that we had one of our most relaxing family holidays yet.  Despite the fact that it was winter!